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Manufacturers / U.S.A. / Packard


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Packard vehicles


1900


C
Packard C   (1900)

Packard was founded by brothers James Ward Packard and William Dowd Packard. The Packard's believed that they could build a better automobile and James, a mechanical engineer, had some ideas how to improve on the designs. By 1899, the brothers were building vehicles in their native Warren, Ohio. The company, which they called the Ohio Automobile Company, quickly introduced a number of innovations in its designs, including the modern steering wheel and the first production 12-cylinder engine.

While Henry Ford was producing cars that sold for $440, the Packards concentrated on upscale cars that started at $2,600. Packard automobiles developed a following not only in the United States, but also abroad, with many heads of state owning them.

In need of more capital, the Packard brothers found it when Henry Bourne Joy, a member of one of Detroit's oldest and wealthiest families, bought a Packard. Impressed by its reliability, he visited the Packards and soon enlisted a group of investors that included his brother-in-law, Truman Handy Newberry. On October 2, 1902, Ohio Automobile Company became Packard Motor Car Company, with James as president. Packard moved its automobile operation to Detroit soon after and Joy became general manager and later chairman of the board.

B
Packard B  concept (1900)

Packard's factory on East Grand Boulevard in Detroit was designed by Albert Kahn, and included the first use of reinforced concrete for industrial construction in Detroit. At its opening, it was considered the most modern automobile manufacturing facility in the world. Its skilled craftsmen practiced over eighty trades.

The 3.5 million ft2 (325,000 m˛) plant covered over 35 acres (142,000 m˛) and straddled East Grand Boulevard. It was later subdivided by eighty-seven different companies. Kahn also designed The Packard Proving Grounds at Utica, Michigan.

Packard Pelican hood ornament from a 1941 180 Formal SedanThroughout the nineteen-teens and twenties, Packard built vehicles consistency were among the elite in luxury automobiles. The company was commonly referred to as being one of the three "P's" of American motordom royalty, along with Pierce-Arrow of Buffalo, New York and Peerless of Cleveland, Ohio. Packard's cachet was so strong that its production placed it ahead of General Motors Cadillac automobiles.


1930


Speedster
Packard Speedster  concept (1930)

Entering into the 1930s Packard attempted to ride out the stock market crash and subsequent depression by manufacturing slightly less expensive cars than it did prior to October 1929. As an independent automaker, Packard did not have the luxury of a larger corporate structure absorbing its losses as Cadillac did with GM and Lincoln with Ford. However Packard did have a better cash position than other independent luxury marques. Peerless fell under receivership in 1929; by 1940 Marmon, Ruxton , Stearns-Knight, Duesenberg and Pierce-Arrow all closed.

Packard also had one other advantage that other some other luxury automakers didn't have: a single production line. By maintaining a single line, and inter-changeability from one model to the next, Packard was able to keep its costs down. Packard also didn't make it a habit of changing their cars on an annual basis as other manufactures did at the time. Rather then introduce new models annual, Packard began using its own Series formula for differentiating its model change-overs in 1913. By 1930, Packard automobiles were considered part of the "Seventh Series". By 1942, Packard was in its Twentieth Series.

To address the depression, Packard started producing affordable cars in the upper mid-price field. In 1935, it introduced its first sub-$1,000 car, the Packard 120. Car production tripled that year and doubled again in 1936.

Eight
Packard Eight Standard concept (1930)

Between 1937 and 1945, three decisions were made by Packard that would haunt the company for the remainder of its time in business.

Prior to 1937, Packard was still the premier luxury automobile, even though the lion share of cars being built were the 120 and Super Eight model ranges. Hoping to catch more of the market, Packard decided issue the Packard 110 in 1937, which was powered by Packard's first six cylinder since the Fifth Series cars in 1927. While the move to introduce the 110 was at once brilliant – the car arrived just in time for the 1938 recession – it was also tagged Packard's as something less exclusive than it had been in the public's mind, and in the long range the 110 hurt Packard's reputation of building America's finest luxury cars.

The second decision that the company made was to invest in modernizing their car design in time for the United States entry into World War. Afraid that changing the traditional Packard too much would drive its valued clientele away, the company issued the sleek Packard Clipper in the fall of 1941 as a 1942 model. Whatever benefit the Clipper could have provided Packard was negated by the conversion to military production and the end of consumer car sales for the duration of the war. Had Packard held onto the Clipper design until after the War, it could have been the first automobile company with a new post-war design.

Standard
Packard Standard 8 De Luxe 8 concept (1931)

The third decision that would hurt Packard and its reputation was installation of a second assembly line and the costs associated with it. Prior to the war, Packard's single line worked in favor of the economy of Packard relatively low production and expenses. But with the second line, labor costs increased as production began to ramp up on mid-priced cars, which further devalued Packard's cache.

During World War II, Packard again built airplane engines, licensing the Merlin engine from Rolls-Royce and simplifying and improving it. The Packard engine powered the famous P-51 Mustang fighter, known as the "Cadillac of the Skies" by G.I.s in WWII. It was the fastest non-jet fighter plane ever built, and could fly higher than any of its contemporaries, allowing its pilots a greater degree of survivability in combat situations. They also built 1350, 1400, and 1500 hp V-12 marine engines that powered American PT boats (each boat had three) and some of Britain's patrol boats.


1950


200
Packard 200 ,250,300 concept (1951)

By the end of World War II, Packard was in excellent financial condition but suffered from a shortage of raw materials needed to manufacture automobiles again. The firm introduced its first post-war body in 1948, prior to its competition in the major firms (Cadillac, Lincoln, and Chrysler). However, the design chosen was of the "bathtub" style predicted during the war as the destined future of automobiles. The postwar Packard's sold poorly, and the ability to distinguish expense models from lower priced models disappeared as Packard's became virtually alike.

By the time the firm was able to restyle again for 1951, the post war sellers market was coming to an end. And again, the design failed to resonate with the public at large. Designed as the antithesis of the bulbous post war models, the motoring press derisively named the new design "high pockets" .

Packard President James Nance was also struggling with what he felt was the only way to reestablish Packard as a luxury car brand, which was to divorce the lower priced models from the luxury models. To do this Nance applied the model name Clipper to the least expensive Packard's. Ultimately Nance planned to spin Clipper off as its own automotive brand targeting Oldsmobile and Mercury, and a target date of 1956 was set for the new automotive brand.

250
Packard 250 convertible concept (1951)

Nash Motors president George Mason approached Packard about a merger in the early 1950s, believing that the days for independent car manufacturers were numbered. Packard was reluctant. 1953 brought about a short-term reversal of fortune and prospects looked better, but 1954 was again a down year for Packard.

On October 1, 1954, Packard merged with Studebaker creating the Studebaker-Packard Corporation. Initially, Packard's executive team had hoped Studebaker's larger network of dealers would help increase sales. At first Nance believed that Studebaker's volume could sustain the companies, however once Nance and other Packard officials discovered that Studebaker's finances were more dire than previously believed.

Packard's up-again and down-again sales continued, with a profitable year in 1955 thanks to the introduction of Packard's first V-8 engines that model year—although a complete retooling for the 1955 models resulted in products so poorly made that hundreds of cars had to be repaired by dealers before they could be sold to the public. This set the stage for a disastrous 1956, which saw production drop to its lowest levels since World War I.

Patrician
Packard Patrician  concept (1952)

1956 saw the launch of Clipper as a stand alone marque and as well as the launch of the Packard Executive, Packard's new entry level car priced to compete against Chrysler and Buick. However Packard dealers began to complain that consumers weren't buying Clippers because the cars weren't Packards. At first Nance refused to rebadge the Clipper as a Packard, but the dealers pushed back. In the end, Nance begrudgingly agreed to start badging the cars as "Clipper, by Packard."

Packard had been selling engines and transmissions to American Motors, but a parts dispute with Romney ended this arrangement in April of 1956. The company severely in debt, its creditors ordered the old Packard plants to close on August 15, 1956, and Nance left the company which then entered in to a contractual management agreement with aircraft maker Curtiss-Wright.

In 1957 and 1958, a Studebaker-based car bearing the Packard Clipper nameplate appeared on the market, but sales were slow. These badge engineered Studebakers were derisively referred to as Packardbakers by the press and consumers and failed to sell in sufficient numbers to keep the marque afloat.

Pininfarina
Packard Pininfarina Coupe  concept (1952)

While the 1957 Packard Clipper was less Packard than it was a very good Studebaker, the cars sold in limited numbers – which was attributed to Packard dealers dropping the franchises and consumers fearful of buying a car that could be an orphaned make soon.

The 1958 models bowed with no series name, simply as "Packard". In addition to the knowledge that these cars were the gasp by what had been thirty years before the biggest selling luxury car in the United States, their annual make-over on a budget usually set aside for a door-handle design at GM was awkward.

Studebaker pulled the Packard nameplate from the marketplace in 1959 to focus instead on its compact Lark.

Caribbean
Packard Caribbean  concept (1953)

In the Early 1960s, Studebaker-Packard was approached by French car maker Facel-Vega about the possibility rebadging the company's Facel-Vega Excellence sedan as a "Packard" for sale in North America. Daimler-Benz, which was under a distribution agreement with Studebaker-Packard, threatened to pull out of the 1958 marketing agreement, which would have cost Studebaker-Packard more in revenue than they could have made from the badge-engineered Packard.



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